Nat O'Connor:On 15 July, Jean-Claude Juncker was elected President of the European Commission. As part of securing votes from the S&D grouping and others as well as the EPP, Mr Juncker pledged to pursue a broader, more socially balanced agenda as President of the Commission.
His short speech is here. He also published a 12-page manifesto, A New Start for Europe: My Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change. Although this got some coverage in Irish media, it deserves greater scrutiny and serious engagement.
Juncker has pledged €300 billion for job creation over the next three years. It's not clear how much of this is new money, but if Ireland's 1% of the EU's population received a proportionate share, that would be €3 billion - or €1 billion/year, which is large enough to significantly boost GDP and job creation. By way of illustrating the scale of the potential impact, NAMA has pledged to build 22,000 housing units with €1 billion. The EU money could build another 66,000 - with short-term job creation and long-term reduction in the housing affordability crisis. Of course, it might get channeled into other areas, but the potential economic impact of this scale of money should be clear.
He proposes a new European Energy Union to reduce reliance on oil and gas. This is a wise move, given many EU state's reliance on Russian gas. It also is explicitly being done in the name of addressing climate change.
Juncker has called for some reversal of the deindustrialistion of Europe, with a call for a 25 per cent growth in industrial output as a proportion of GDP (from 16% to 20%) by 2020. That's ambitious, but an important marker in the need to reduce the financialisation of the economy and focus on production in the real economy.
He proposes replacing the 'troika' with a more democratic and accountable structure. He has named red-line issues of European regulation (like health, social standards, etc.) that won't be compromised in the planned free trade agreement with the USA. And he talks about the need for a gender-balanced commission, at political and administrative level as a "political must".
This is not to endorse the manifesto, but simply to point out that there are some big commitments there (and a lot more than have been named above), which provide perhaps the closest thing we are going to see to a government manifesto of priorities for the five-year European Commission under Juncker's leadership.
Nat O’Connor is a member of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRiSS) and a Lecturer of Public Policy and Public Management in the School of Criminology, Politics and Social Policy at Ulster University.
Previously Director of TASC, Nat also led the research team in Dublin’s Homeless Agency.
Nat holds a PhD in Political Science from Trinity College Dublin (2008) and an MA in Political Science and Social Policy form the University of Dundee (1998). Nat’s primary research interest is in how research-informed public policy can achieve social justice and human wellbeing. Nat’s work has focused on economic inequality, housing and homelessness, democratic accountability and public policy analysis. His PhD focused on public access to information as part of democratic policy making.